THATCamp Pedagogy This Weekend (Picking My Feet Edition)

Have you ever been to Poughkeepsie?

I’m on my way this morning to THATCamp Pedagogy (ProfHacker post), an unconference on teaching and learning as an aspect of digital humanities (THATCamp home). The unconference is in Poughkeepsie NY, and is sponsored by Vassar College.

Besides the “unconference” sessions, there are planned “boot camps” on:

  • integrating digital projects into undergraduate courses;
  • teaching with Omeka;
  • the undergraduate’s voice in digital humanities;
  • “So Long, Lecture.”

I will plan to live-Tweet as opportunity allows. On Twitter, you can follow me for the weekend at @anummabrooke to see my Tweets alone, or follow the hashtag #THATCampedagogy (note the single “p”) to follow all Tweets on the unconference.

[Addendum: the hashtags actually used at the unconference have been #THATCamp and #pdgy]

Have you ever been to Poughkeepsie? (Not Safe For Work!)

[THATCamp Pedagogy This Weekend was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/10/14. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Biblical Scholars: Care to be Interviewed?

I have assigned my “Introduction to Old Testament” students to interview a “real biblical scholar.” Students will collaboratively come up with questions for their interviews during October, and conduct their interviews by phone or Skype in early November. They will then write a report on their interview.

Here is how I describe the report to them:

The student will have already prepared and refined a list of questions, independently and in collaboration with colleagues. She will have contacted the subject, arranged the interview, and held the interview, in accordance with instructions.

The report should demonstrate that the student asked questions appropriate to academic biblical studies, while also appropriately inviting the subject to reflect on “essential questions” related to the practice of academic biblical studies. The report should contain an introduction, a list of questions, and a body that communicates the subject’s responses to each question, and a conclusion. The report should show evidence that the interview has prompted the student to “step back” and reflect on her practice of biblical studies both for our course work and longer term.

I would like volunteers to either have a completed PhD, or else be ABD with a full-time academic job in biblical studies.

If you are interested, you can respond here in comments, or else email me at my work address: brooke dot mylastname at garrett dot edu.

Thanks!

[Biblical Scholars: Care to be Interviewed? was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/09/20. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

If You’re Happy and You Know It (biblical Hebrew songs, cont’d)

So, mostly what I’ve been doing is supporting my faculty colleagues in their transition from Blackboard to our new Moodle learning management system.

But, partly what I’ve been doing is continuing with the biblical Hebrew resources in my series, “A Foundation for Biblical Hebrew,” a series that uses communicative learning tools as a supplement to an elementary biblical Hebrew curriculum.

This is, “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Some points I had to work through, and on which I welcome feedback:

  • I decided that being happy and knowing it was best expressed with perfect verbs joined by we-gam.
  • I decided to use the masculine plural pronoun suffixes; sorry, but there’s just no room in the song for a more up-to-date solution to the problem of gender inclusivity. In English, I usually use the feminine singular as the “representative human” (“each student must see to her own work”).
  • “Let your lives show it”: going with the jussive here, naturally, verb-subject.
  • For the commands, I abandon personal pronouns: “clap a palm”; “stomp a foot”; etc. Again, only so much room in the scansion. This—leaving pronominal suffixes off of body parts where they are the objects of verbs—accords well enough with biblical usage (Psa 47:1; cf. Isa 37:22; but Ezek 6:11).
  • Main learning points: body parts, the masculine plural imperative, the masculine plural pronominal suffixes -tem and -kem; the conditional particle ʾim.

Feedback encourages, as always.

[If You’re Happy and You Know It (biblical Hebrew songs, cont’d) was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/09/12. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock (Biblical Hebrew)

I’ve worked into biblical Hebrew the children’s song, “The Wise Man Built His House upon a Rock.” I happened to hear the Boy singing it one morning, and I found myself putting most of it into Hebrew while shaving.

I like it as an exercise for my students because it’s simple, and because the vocabulary is so well attested biblically: build, descend, ascend, fall; wise, house, rock. The choices I made about verb patterns could give rise to fruitful conversation about the qatal, yiqtol, and wayyiqtol. It’s good for me, too: I had initially been drawn to the Infinitive Absolute for the concurrent action of rain falling and floods rising, until my search for biblical parallels suggested I was on a wrong track. (I’d be on firmer ground if the two verbs shared a single agent.)

Another song I plan to put into biblical Hebrew is a version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” While not all of this vocabulary is biblically well-attested, it has value for communicative teaching of Hebrew: it uses words that have high “pay off” for daily usage. (So, I’d be open to songs that use body parts, colors, numbers up to thirty, and everyday objects.)

A third song I have planned is “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” A fourth is a surprise.

How about some revision of “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” with all biblically-attested animals? More advanced would be a revision of, “Hush, Little Baby (the Mockingbird song).”

What other simple children’s songs can you think of that might be put into biblical Hebrew? The song should be fairly short and simple. Ideally, they should EITHER 1) feature vocabulary that is biblically well-attested, OR 2) feature vocabulary that has high pay-off in terms of everyday nouns and concepts like body parts, colors, numerals, and so on.

[The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock (Biblical Hebrew) was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/07/05. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

VOST2011: The Visions of Students Today

What do students in Higher Education see today? What do they “see” in the sense of, “What are their visions?” And, what do they literally see from the place in which they are expected to learn?

This is the question posed by Michael Wesch, professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. Wesch is well known for his work so far in gathering and analyzing the experiences and voices of higher-ed students in an internet age.

Watch some of the YouTube videos tagged VOST2011. For an educator in Higher Ed, the videos are rather hypnotic, occasionally disturbing, and often illuminating. Take the following as an example:

More upbeat, but not less analytical or thought-provoking, is this piece from a student at University of the Philippines:

In the professorial circles in which I run, I am probably among those more likely to identify with the students of VOST2011: besides being a “distance pedagogies guy” (in progress), I am after all a Gen-Xer, and until a subject matter grabbed me in my Masters work, felt continually disenchanted with and alienated from the structures of education, while still identifying strongly with other students as a peer group. At the same time, however, I am formed by an exceptionally traditional and modernist Ph.D. program, and believe as strongly in “disseminating data” as in facilitating constructivist activities for peer-to-peer learning.

Professors: What do you think of Wesch’s call for submissions, and what do you think of some of the videos? How do they speak, or not speak, to you as educators?

Students: What are your visions today? What do you see from the place where you are expected to learn?

[VOST2011: The Visions of Students Today was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/03/25. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

More Active Reading: How to Read a Textbook Chapter

A week or so back, I wrote here about exercises in “active reading.” There, I included links to a number of blank worksheets that students could use to help them read actively (Bull’s Eye organizer; Fish-bone organizer; K-W-L sheet; and more).

As an exemplar to the class, I “actively read” a scholarly essay: I wrote a short phrase next to every paragraph in the essay, and also filled in each of the worksheets. I then called attention to this in class and posted it to their Blackboard.

The next weekend, while supervising a local chess tournament, I came upon a kind of “active reading” poster in the middle-school library (Flickr):

THIEVES, an acronym for Title, Heading, Everything I want to know, Visuals, End-of-section material, So what?

This pretty much exactly corresponds to what I tell students about how to read the chapters from their textbook:

  • Read the chapter’s introductory paragraph. List the keywords in the margin of that paragraph.
  • Read the major headings (“Jeremiah and the Deuteronomists”; turn them into questions (“What do the Deuteronomists have to do with Jeremiah?”).
  • Look at the graphics: photographs, tables, timelines, maps. What do they make you think of? What questions do they make you ask? Write these in the margins of the chapter’s first page.
  • Ask yourself: What sorts of things do you already know about the topics coming up in this exercise?
  • Read the concluding paragraph and any study questions or glossaries at the end of the chapter. Plan to search out the answers to these as you read the chapter.
  • Read one (1) major section in the chapter. For each paragraph, jot the main points into the margin, in your own words. At the end of the section, describe aloud what that section communicated to you. Repeat this for each section. This should take several sittings, probably one sitting for each major section.
  • Bring this chapter into conversation with your life. What difference does this information make? How does it challenge things you already knew or believed? How does it help answer or solve questions you have had in the past? What does it make you want to try to discover next?

This may seem time-consuming, but in practice it is an incredible time saver: with interactive reading, you can read the chapter once instead of several times, because you retain the content at a much higher rate than through passive reading. Also, by breaking the reading up over several sittings, the subject matter can “percolate” for you, making unexpected connections to your other studies or activities.

Students, do you already do any of these kinds of things when reading? Profs, do you offer any kind of guidance or instruction in active reading?

[More Active Reading: How to Read a Textbook Chapter was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/03/18. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Frequency Lists for NT Greek and Biblical Hebrew

(Welcome, ad hoc Christianity readers and listeners! I was just hearing from a colleague who notes that vocab-failure is the main cause of flunking a reading competency exam. Hope you find these helpful.)

I have created a pair of “frequency lists” for New Testament Greek and Biblical Hebrew: words are listed from most-frequent to least-frequent, according to parts of speech. I stop the lists at words occurring less than ten times. Proper nouns are excluded.

My purpose in creating them is to have a resource for drawing up vocabulary quizzes and varying kinds of audio-visual helps. I am posting them here in the event that anybody finds them useful.

Biblical Hebrew frequency list

NT Greek frequency list

Past a certain point, the elementary student is learning vocabulary from reading texts more than from vocabulary lists. Once that begins to happen, the vocabulary “sticks” better because it is associated with a lively context. Still, readers at any skill level can benefit from a check-in with vocabulary. And, as I say, I find such helps really valuable when, say, trying to create in-class dialogues that reinforce essential lexica.

To what sorts of uses might you put a frequency list?

[Frequency Lists for NT Greek and Biblical Hebrew was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/03/10. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

“Active Reading” for Seminary Learners

I did my first research paper as a Masters student. I know, I know. My wife, having come up through Jesuit secondary and undergraduate schooling, can’t believe it either. In any case, when we talk about the wide range of preparation with which students arrive at seminary, I do get it: in many undergraduate programs, the research paper doesn’t come up. And as for secondary school, anyone who doesn’t avoid hard work in high school simply isn’t trying.

When I did begin my Masters program, and the 50%-of-grade research/thesis paper met me right at the door first semester, I was well positioned to learn the ropes quickly. In my family of origin, curiosity had been rewarded, we all read like hell, and there was a normalcy to spending several hours at the library—or on a solo bike trip exploring the four points of the compass, or digging up the back yard—and talking about what kind of stuff you’d found out about. (You’d get a killer spanking for digging up the yard, but could still talk freely of your findings.) So I read up on “the thesis paper,” memorized every word of the professor’s instructions in the syllabus, and tried to “go and do likewise.” With great success, because while I was inexperienced with the form, I was pretty well prepared by a formation that was (might as well say it) atypical, and even—with regard to the factors relevant here—privileged.

This is all on my mind as I read articles about “active reading,” a mode of reading that is natural to me because what else do you do after reading except yammer about it in excruciating detail to an older sister (thanks, Jul, thanks, Kay), but which is not, it turns out, natural to everybody who experiences a call to be a leader in the church.

My “Intro to Old Testament” syllabus changes a lot, but often involves having the students read journal articles or essays in edited books. This semester, I am having them read only a handful or so, but I have developed a new activity for the reading: we are to identify the article’s thesis or central idea, the evidence that it incorporates into its argument, and the elements of its line of reasoning. My hope is that this will help them to think of their final paper in such structured terms. (They will also be writing the paper in four stages, offering each other peer review for the first three stages.)

The first reading assignment is going on this week (Christopher Rollston’s “The Rise of Monotheism in Ancient Israel: Biblical and Epigraphic Evidence,” Stone-Campbell Journal 6 [2003]: 95-115; PDF available). Having allowed them to work through that one as best they can, I plan to introduce helps for “active reading” that they can use for articles assigned later in the course.

The following helps are available at the Glencoe Online “Teaching Today” site:

My idea is to model the use of some or all of these when we discuss the Rollston article, then assign them to demonstrate use of any one of them the next time we read a journal article or essay from an edited book. My hope is that the students who are already well positioned to read actively will find the activity something of a cake walk (while probably still benefiting from exposure to new processes in active reading), while the students who are relatively new to active reading might enjoy some breakthroughs in how they interact with reading: breakthroughs that just might pay off throughout their Masters work.

Instructors, do you ever assign activities to enhance active reading? Students, can you imagine profiting from assignments of this kind?

[“Active Reading” for Seminary Learners was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/03/01. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Biblical Hebrew Aleph-Bet Series: Complete!

I will certainly re-draft the series at some point in the future, probably after using it once in Fall 2011. But as a first draft, the entire series is now complete. The seven-part series comes to a total of about eighty (80) minutes. At the series’ end, the student not only will have discovered, through reading, the Aleph-bet and vowels, but will already be reading Hebrew with a considerable degree of fluency.

In the series, the entire Biblical Hebrew Aleph-Bet, with vowels, has been taught strictly through use: the student learns by reading and speaking real Hebrew words from the beginning. Hebrew characters have been taught in “clumps” organized phonetically: gutturals, labials, sibilants, and so on. Along the way, the learner also begins to use “weak” and “strong” dagesh, and the shewa.

This final video unveils the system of matres lectionis, and also—finally—the names of the already-learned vowels and consonants.

The Aleph-Bet series is part of a larger series, which I call “A Foundation for Biblical Hebrew.” The other items in this larger series will be two: one is a series of videos that teach communicative domains (greetings, talking about weather and seasons, classroom coping phrases, colors, numerals, describing things, adverbs of time, dining out, and so on). The other will be a series that includes some 400 pictures depicting biblical Hebrew nouns, adjectives, and verbs. The point is to establish a strong foundation for communicative learning of Biblical Hebrew.

As always, I welcome feedback. Especially, if you are able to put the videos in front of learners who do not already know the Hebrew Aleph-Bet, or who learned it a zillion years ago and have forgotten, I would love to hear about their experience with the video series.

[Biblical Hebrew Aleph-Bet Series: Complete! was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/02/09. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Aleph-Bet Learning Video 6: י, ל, נ, ר

The remaining letters of the Biblical Hebrew aleph-bet are covered in this sixth learning video. By this time, the learner is quite familiar with

  • vowels and consonants
  • composite shewa with gutturals
  • simple shewa, including “vocal shewa
  • final forms
  • “begadkepat” letters

The learner is also reading a great many Hebrew words with a considerable degree of fluency.

At this point—the moment the entire series means to prepare—the learner is ready to learn an “Aleph-Bet song” and actually understand what she is learning.

A seventh, final video will introduce the system of matres lectionis, and will also teach an Aleph-Bet song.

[Aleph-Bet Learning Video 6: י, ל, נ, ר was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/02/01. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]